14 books about parenting around the world you won’t want to miss if you’re interested in global practices and traditions in raising children.
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When I first got pregnant, high on my list of things to do to prep for baby was read. After all, I was a librarian, and I was responsible for ordering books for our parenting collection.
I had unlimited resources at my disposal. Perhaps too many!
As I began to delve into the hundreds of parenting books on the market, I discovered, unsurprisingly, that I preferred literature on parenting around the world, rather than traditional American parenting.
Furthermore, I was unsure that I wanted to raise my children similarly to most American parents.
To be fair, I’m not knocking American parents. I am one…
All parents want to raise decent human beings who are safe, happy, and healthy. But I find, both as a reader and as a mom, that many American parents can be a bit…extra.
And if you’ve ever browsed the parenting section of a library or bookstore, you know that there’s hundreds of versions of what’s “right” or how to be the perfect parent. We’re obsessed with defining “styles” of parenting, giving (but not receiving) advice, and bombarding ourselves and others with “research” found on page six of google.
Pamela Druckerman of Bringing Up Bébé elaborates more on the American obsessed with internet research. But let’s just say that when we look at customs and traditions in parenting around the world, we see a lot of American research fall apart.
For example, Americans vehemently dismiss co-sleeping, as the AAP cites “bed-sharing” as unsafe, yet Japanese parents very often practice co-sleeping and have one of the lowest infant mortality rates.
In America, we have a very strict standardized school schedule. Finnish children spend less years and less hours in the classroom, yet their scores outrank Americans.
I’m at no point claiming I’m an expert on safe sleep, early childhood education, or any of the other topics the actual experts and authors behind these titles discuss. Nor am I saying you should be an anti American mama.
Simply put, I think there is abundant value in learning about how and why other cultures seem to excel in specific areas of parenting.
If you’re looking to broaden your parenting horizons, you’ll love these 14 interesting and informative books about how other cultures raise their children.
14 Best Books About Parenting Around the World
Do Parents Matter by Robert a. Levine & Sarah LeVine
For over fifty years, the LeVines have studied child rearing practices around the world. Through observing families, they’ve discovered that children can thrive in many different settings, but one thing is certain: American parents need to relax.
The overly cautious, obsessively thought out methods behind American parenting are not the be all end all, and traditions in parenting around the world have shown that other cultures not only thrive, but excel in comparison to Americans.
Japenese parents cosleep, yet raise extremely independent children. French parents limit the amount of energy their give toddlers, yet their children are happy and confident. Despite parenting fads and trends, it’s time, the LeVines say, to realize that American’s are missing the mark. Children are smarter and more capable than we give them credit for. // Get a copy here.
Feed the Baby Hummus by Lisa Lewis
A pediatrician herself, Lisa Lewis has traveled to many countries and experiences both medicine practices and traditions in parenting around the world.
In her (often clinical) observations, she notes that in certain cultures it is commonplace to breastfeed past a year, while in others spicy food is customary, even at a young age. Despite national American standards, Lewis notices the success behind a multitude of various customs in raising children elsewhere.
In her book, she encourages parents to safely incorporate traditions from various cultures, while balancing them with practices we’re accustomed to in the west. // Get a copy here.
How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood
Mei-Ling Hopgood, a first time mother from Michigan, is now residing in Buenos Aires. Among the culture shocks and surprising differences in child rearing practices is the fact that Argentinian mothers let their babies stay up extremely late.
Wondering if this custom could be beneficial, and curious about other traditions in parenting around the world, Hopgood observes and interviews parents, educators, teachers, and experts from various other countries.
Which cultures think strollers are silly, which excel at potty training, and which have adventurous eaters. Desperate for guidance as a new mother, the author tries some of her newfound discoveries on her daughter, with surprising results.
Hopgood’s global tour of parenting is charming, often times hilarious, and will leave readers wanting to expand their parenting horizons. // Get a copy here.
Parenting Without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh
Christine Gross-Loh exposes some of the world’s most successful parenting strategies and asks Americans if other countries are getting right what we are not.
In fact, research reveals that American children fall behind in academics, health, and in overall happiness. Looking to other cultures for answers, she finds how mothers around the world foster independence, creativity, and excellence, despite breaking many “American rules.”
Gross-Loh examines co-sleeping, helicopter parenting, the benefit of more play and recess, and other aspects of parenting around the world that grossly differ from American norms. Is there truly just one “right way” of parenting? // Get a copy here.
The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessice Joelle Alexander & Iben Dissing Sandahl
The Danish style of parenting is my absolute favorite approach to parenting around the world. Simple, yet profound and transformative, discover an extremely thoughtful and mindful way to raise children.
Alexander and Sandahal’s bestseller shares parenting secrets of the world’s happiest population, including how to bring hygge and togetherness into parenting. For example, cell phones have almost zero place in Danish parenting, but games, crafts, and even cooking together do.
Furthermore, Danish parenting is rooted in empathy. Readers will learn techniques to reframe power struggles and help children grow into confident, humble, and extremely happy individuals. // Get a copy here.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk
Not just the title of the book, there’s no such thing as bad weather (only bad clothes) is a Scandinavian aphorism and key to a successful childhood.
After feeling like the odd one out after walking her daughter to school in the cold, or getting caught frolicking near a river, McGurk returns to her Scandinavian roots and decides to raise her children in Sweden.
Instead of worrying about math scores and standardized tests, McGurk is confident that exposing her child to nature and European customs will put her children ahead. In fact, she not only delves into her own experience with total immersion in the natural world, but shares profound research on why being outside is a non-negotiable in Scandinavian culture.
After just a few chapters, you’ll quickly learn that the solution to most childhood struggles is simple: go outside. // Get a copy here.
Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
I initially read Bringing Up Bebe because I have a small obsession with French culture. I also loved the premise of the book and the infamous national debate that ensued after its publication.
Druckerman, an American raising her child in France, sets out to discover why French children eat everything, sleep through the night, and seem well-behaved, yet are still fun, artistic, and creative.
What she finds is that American parents are just a but much. While the French simply don’t take no for an answer, Americans are obsessed with figuring out why their child won’t sleep, won’t eat, and how to be the absolute best and coddling their children into listening.
Druckerman discusses minimalism, boundaries, and attention in a way that many American parents would scoff at, or overly research until they felt defeated. Yet, despite the parental debate surrounding her book, Bringing Up Bébé continues to be a vital resource for parents – Americans and other – around the world. // Get a copy here.
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
When the author moved her family to her husband’s hometown in France, the last cultural adjustment she expected was to be lectured about hushing her children with snacks.
Moreso, she was interested in why French children seem to have exceptional palates and don’t expect their parents to be short order chicken nugget cooks. Plus, the French obesity rate is practically non existant.
In her memoir, she dishes on the “food rules” she picks up on that enable French children to develop healthy eating habits, shares anecdotal parenting advice, and provides a few kid-friendly, healthy recipes readers are sure to enjoy. // Get a copy here
Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske
When Zaske moved from the states to Berlin with her husband and child, the thing that surprised her the most was the amount of freedoms German parents give their children, even young ones.
Helicopter parents would be surprised to learn that German children are allowed to ride the subway on their own or cut with sharp knives, among other things American parents would gasp at. Yet German children are thriving, and their parents simply do not share the same fears.
Zaske’s memoir shares her, often funny, lessons in “selbstandigkeit”, or the German principle of self-reliance, and, most importantly, answers one of our most pressing questions as parents: are we able to raise capable children? // Get a copy here.
The Happiest Kids in the World by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison
Stressed out parents don’t just need to relax, they need to read this book, by an American and a Brit, both married to Dutch husbands.
Dutch parents help their children, and themselves, by doing less. Dutch children often play unsupervised, seldom have scheduled activities or homework, sleep without a fuss, and excel in school. They’re also consistently ranked as one of the happiest populations.
As Acosta and Hutchinson seek to discover why Dutch families are relaxed, happy, and balances, they discover the secret is quite simple: do less. // Get a copy here.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
One of the most controversial books on parenting, about one of the most controversial style of parenting around the world, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother shares one mother’s journey in ultra-strict parenting.
Chua openly shares why she chose to raiser her daughters in a traditional Chinese manner, rather than a nurturing or Western way. Believing a strong work ethic and certain skills will best prepare her daughters for their future, she also candidly discusses where these choices held her children back.
Heartbreakingly honest, parents reading will cringe at parts, cry at others, and find profound empathy for Chua and others struggling to balance the philosophies of individuality, education, and culture. // Get a copy here.
East Meets West by Kim Parker
Challenges and hurdles are sure to arise when you find yourself parenting in a culture differently from how you were raised.
This is exactly what happens to Kim Parker, an American of Chinese-Vietnamese descent who has embraced American culture, found Christianity, and married an American. Together, they have three boys.
In her memoir, she shares the sacrifices of her parents and their ancient eastern wisdom, along with how it relates to parenting. As a practicing social worker, she opens up about her own struggles, her research, and how she and her husband parent three boys with both western and eastern philosophies.
Ultimately, rather than choose which culture to follow, Parker encourages us to honor both in a truly global style of parenting. // Get a copy here.
World Class by Teru Clavel
Concerned that top notch education relied on more than prestigious private schools, Teru and her family move from New York city to Asia and embark on a ten year journey through the public schools of Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai.
In her eye-opening account of how and why Asian students outperform Americans, discover strict schooling practices, children that love their teachers and homework, and exceptional school lunches. In the absence of technology, find rigorous academics, an expectation of obedience, and teachers full of determination.
Upon returning to the states, Teru realizes that while her children were passing, schools were failing them, and her insights from a decade in Asia could be the answer. // Get a copy here.
The Tibetan Art of Parenting by Anne Maiden Brown
Buddhist wisdom and compassion meets new age parenting in an eye opening take on raising children. Brown suggests raising children in a way that marries the body, mind, spirit, and environment.
More than just a parenting book, Brown’s guide shares a deeply intimate look at Tibetan culture for newlyweds, expecting parents, and parents of older children. Beginning from conception, Tibetan culture recognizes the interconnectedness of community and planet that are necessary for a well rounded approach to parenting. // Get a copy here.
Where Can You Get These Books About Parenting Around the World at a Discounted Price?
- Try Audible Today and Get Two Free Audiobooks
- Sign Up for Kindle Unlimited
- Get or hold these titles through your public library
What are your favorite books about parenting around the world. Do you favorite a global approach or a more traditional American one?
As I said above, my absolute favorite book, and approach to parenting, is The Danish Way of Parenting. Similarly, I love, and live by, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather.
Though controversial, I enjoyed reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, as it opened my eyes to a style of parenting I was completely unfamiliar with. Truthfully, each title holds a place in my heart as I truly believe it’s important to take a global approach to raising children and learn how other methods of parenting around the world can help each individual mother figure out her style and her baby.
Love this…and totally agree! Extra thankful for my Danish roots ?and the Finnish ones where I literally grew up with the ethic “get outside & play. A healthy body is equally important as a healthy mind. You can’t have one without the other.” Those were your Grammy’s words
Thank you for including FEED THE BABY HUMMUS! I’ve read all these books except two (which I just added to my list). I appreciate your support. Wishing you and your family good health and joy!
Thanks for the recommendations. I saw two of my favorite books here and am excited to take your recommendations and read more.
Best of the best books to read about parenting. Thank you so much. Keep posting awesome article like this one.
I recommend adding Hunt Gather Parent.. it’s an incredible read!